WE ARE All Victims Now
I want to preface this by first saying that the opinions that follow are my own, formed from reading the Freeh report, following the news stories and talking with friends. After seeing the rabid reaction of the nation, formed by media reports, I’m sure I stand in the minority. That’s OK. I can still support and feel for Sandusky’s victims while being able to criticize what I feel to be unjust punishment levied against Penn State, based on opinion.
To begin with, the credibility of the Freeh report (I actually read that damn thing), undertaken by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, can be called into question because he has been accused of covering up important information to his benefit in the past. Do Ruby Ridge and Waco ring a bell? Where is the transcript of what Paterno allegedly said to Curley that made him “change his mind” on February 27, 2001? The report infers things, it does not prove things. It is not a definitive, legally-binding account of what happened. Freeh never interviewed Paterno, Curley, Schultz or McQueary, and only interviewed Spanier just before the report’s release. That isn’t sound investigating, nor is it comprehensive. Paterno himself admitted he wished he had done more after the 2001 incident, as all of us would in hindsight, but if anything, this report shows him to be a secondary figure.
McQueary didn’t stop Sandusky back in 2001. Instead, he called home and talked to his father. He then went to Paterno, who reported the message to his superiors, one of which was in charge of the police on campus. McQueary said that he told Curley and Schultz that what he saw was of a sexual nature. Curley and Schultz said that they were told it was “horsing around.” Remember, before this, the only case brought against Sandusky was back in 1998, and the charges had been dropped. Also, the jurors in the Sandusky trial cited McQueary’s inconsistent testimony when finding Sandusky not guilty of the rape charge in that instance. Still, Spanier, Curley and Schultz should have said something, as it was their responsibility to do so, not just try to get Sandusky help or just not allow him back on campus.
There is a large gap in the report after the 2001 incident. Was Paterno informed of Spanier, Schultz and Curley’s decision and agreed to not say anything, adding him to a possible cover-up? Was he told that it was taken care of by his superiors (the President, Vice-President and Athletic Director)? The former is damning, the latter isn’t. How is it that McQueary met with Sandusky multiple times after the 2001 incident and nothing was said? It’s ironic that of the people to come forward to report Sandusky to authorities, two were mothers and two were Penn State coaches, McQueary and Paterno. Where are the people at the other places Sandusky victimized children, as most of the incidents did not happen at Penn State? Nobody knew? Nobody said anything? Hell, Sandusky adopted six children… where was the Department of Public Welfare who did background checks for the adoption proceedings?
My worry is that because of these sanctions designed to make people come forward and report these crimes, people will actually be more reluctant to do so, seeing how those who did say something have been vilified.
The punishment handed down by the NCAA against Paterno has everything to do with public relations, perception and retribution… to benefit the NCAA. When will Syracuse be punished for the sexual allegations made against their basketball program? If Penn State’s punishment sets the precedent for the NCAA to play God, who will they smite next? The NCAA felt public pressure because a pristine reputation was tarnished, so they involved themselves in what amounts to a criminal matter by spinning it about football because football coaches were involved.
I have little problem with some form of punishment for Penn State (as Spanier, Curley and Shultz seem to be guilty – and there will be court cases to answer that question), but vacating wins back to 1998 is laughable. So Penn State is forced to vacate wins back to my freshman year of school. I find this odd, as in 1998, Sandusky was investigated by the District Attorney and charges were dropped. If anything, 2001 should be the date… as if rewriting history will somehow make this all better. I’m sorry, but you can’t shove 111 wins down the memory hole. I was there. I saw.
On the issue of rewriting history, Penn State’s decision to remove the Paterno statue is a case of leading from behind. They let others dictate Penn State’s actions so as to project good public relations. Isn’t that exactly what they are accused of in the first place? Paterno did a lot of good in his life, but he was no saint. That is just as much a part of your history, Penn State, as the bad stuff. Might as well own up to it, as trying to erase it only makes you look worse and will accomplish nothing. After all, if we are going to remove honors from imperfect men, then it’s time to remove the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memoral, as both were owners of slaves. Andrew Jackson should be removed from the $20 bill, as he was responsible for the death of Native Americans. I, of course, don’t believe that we should. Good people can do bad things. It’s part of the duality of our nature as human beings. However, while a poor decision can tarnish a legacy and show an icon to be human, it does not rewrite the history of all the good that person has done.
I’m not saying that you have to love Paterno. However, you have to respect the fact that he graduated his players, often with a higher GPA than the student body, and he did this over a span of time when other schools were having trouble just keeping players eligible to play. That alone is something to be honored. I find it hard to reconcile that Paterno would suspend a player for skipping class only to be a part of such a massive cover-up. Perhaps future investigations will reveal what was going on.
Regardless, the hammer has fallen and Penn State’s president has seen fit to accept it (reportedly without even talking to the Board of Trustees). I disagree with this. The $60 million fine, the loss of scholarships and the bowl ban punishes everyone. It’s like killing a fly with a shotgun. It will hurt everyone with any connection to the university, from other sports to academics, businesses and fans. Again, I agree that some type of punishment is warranted, but that punishment should be to the people involved. Spanier, Curley and Shultz will have their day in court, and perhaps will be found guilty. Like Sandusky, they will be punished. In our country, it’s the PROVEN GUILTY who should be punished.
In the end, everyone has their opinions. Freeh has his. The NCAA has theirs. So does the media, who have the blood-lust of lawyers. People who had nothing or very little to do with this, and I’m not only speaking of Paterno here but of the current student-athletes, student body, alumni and fans, are being punished by a Kangaroo Court. So go ahead and call me a child rape apologist, even if I have spent time raising money for THON and their fight to help children with pediactric cancer. Say I’m drinking the “blue and white kool-aid,” even though Penn State raised $500k for RAINN back in 2011 and millions more years before that. I’m willing to bet that Penn State as done more than most to aid children, and more than most of those who criticize and demonize… as if they knew what they were talking about.
I feel for the victims of Sandusky. Because of one man, they lost the innocence of childhood… Because of that one man, in a very different way, we are all victims now.
UPDATE: This editorial knows my mind on this matter and presents it more plainly that I have. Please read it as well. (LINK)